One of the best ways to find new customers is to get referrals from your existing customers – but how can you get more referrals? Many sales people and small business owners make the mistake of not being proactive about asking for referrals – or they ask for referrals too aggressively! Getting more referrals is one of the most valuable things you can do to grow your business, but you have to take the right approach. Just like your new sales leads need to be handled carefully, you need to take a proactive-but-prudent approach to asking for referrals from your current customers.
Here are a few ideas for how to ask for referrals the right way – without alienating your customers:
Ask for Referrals After a Successful Sales Implementation
Many sales people make the mistake of asking for the referral too soon. If you have barely closed a sale, and you’re already asking for referrals, you’re making a mistake! Your customer will feel pressured and might even reconsider doing business with you; they will ask themselves, “Does this person really care about my situation, or are they already moving on to their next sales target?”
Instead of jumping the gun and asking for referrals right after the sale, wait awhile and ask for the referral a few weeks or months later, AFTER the customer has gone through the implementation process with you. Hopefully, you will have a happy customer who is satisfied with their new solution, and at this point, you can ask for referrals without worrying about pressuring the customer. Make sure your customer is totally happy with your solution or service; make sure the customer is in a wonderful mood before you ask them for a favor.
Ask for Referrals As Part of Long-Term Follow-Up
Another opportunity to ask for referrals is when you are checking in with longtime customers. Instead of just “touching base” as usual, or instead of trying to get the customer to buy more products/services from you, use this call as a different sort of opportunity and ask them for the favor of giving you a referral to another prospective customer. Longtime customers will often be happy to refer you to their friends or colleagues, especially if you are proactive about asking. Why is this? Well, people are all busy and sometimes your current customers assume that you’re already “busy enough,” unless you make a point of asking for more opportunities. And if you have built good relationships and established trust with these current customers, they will hopefully be happy to help you out with a referral.
Make “The Ask” Seem Natural
Asking for referrals shouldn’t feel stilted or forced, it should feel natural and conversational, just like an extension of your current conversation with the customer. Here are a few possible ways to ask for referrals – use whichever “script” feels easiest to you:
“You seem to be quite happy with our service – would you be able to give me the names of any other contacts or colleagues of yours who you think might like to work with us?”
“We’ve enjoyed having you as a customer – would you be willing to give us any referrals? Do you know of anyone who might like to hear from a company like ours?”
“Thanks so much for your business! Our firm is currently looking for some new project opportunities; would you be willing to refer us to any new potential clients or projects that you happen to find out about?”
Just make it natural and ask for referrals in a way that feels easy for you. Remember: you’re not trying to “take” anything away from your clients, you’re just trying to help them help YOU by finding some new opportunities to help other customers. Asking for referrals shouldn’t feel like a selfish act, it should be a mutually beneficial process where you ask a happy customer for a favor – and along the way, they’ll help you find and create many more happy customers.